Tension

Imagine you’re going to climb a rock. People are watching. You are stressed.

The best thing to do is ignore the audience, pay little attention to the rock, and focus yourself on yourself. Where is your foot going to go? Your hand? How are you going to get them there? How will you move your weight?

The rock should be included just enough to dictate body position, as your hands and feet will match holds on the rock.

The audience should determine little to nothing. Some element of showmanship may be necessary, and if so, a flashy way to climb might be warranted. But merely for the purpose of climbing the rock, the audience should be ignored.

This is easier said than done.

Culture

Lemme give you another Rorschach test: Is Shakespeare part of American culture?

He was born, lived, worked, and died in the UK. I’ve seen arguments that he spent some time in Italy, but nothing whatsoever includes America. There is, for Shakespeare the person, no connection between him and the US.

When I was in highschool, the drama department did a Shakespearean play every year. It was probably because WS is out of copyright, and my drama department was broke. Same in junior high. In English classes, both composition and lit, Shakespeare looms large. I’ve read all of his sonnets, most (maybe all) of his plays, and seen dozens live. There are Shakespeare festivals, theaters, and events. For me, an American, Shakespeare is a large part of the literature of my growing up.

Is that culture?

We use his words. He never mentioned us. His legacy is taught in our schools. But we can claim no part of him, the person, only ourselves, influenced by him. Is Shakespeare part of American culture?

I think that’s really more a question about how we see culture than anything else. But this is my blog so…yes.

Culture, the word, has to mean the collected experience of a people. It refers to the common concepts, the shared precets, the things we likely know together even if each person is different. Culture is the subtext of language, the ties that bind. In the US, most people of moderate education know Shakespeare. They may not agree on importance nor on weights. People know less or more as their priorities dictate, but most people who know literature in the US are somewhat familiar with WS. Maybe they don’t know Romeo and Juliet, but they know West Side Story. He has been taken, after his death and without his permission, and woven through the fabric of American life.

Democracy is a part of American culture, and we certainly didn’t invent it. We put a spin on it, but so has everyone else who used it. We fight over it a lot…but so has everyone else. Same for music, food, and art. When you make something, you give it a life beyond your own. The thing has an existence itself beyond the human agency which created it. Shakespeare, the person, had no connection to the US beyond the background noise of his time. But the US is connected to his work, and one cannot truly separate the work from the person. So the connections are made and tied.

Once more unto the breach, dear friends

And I’m back.

United lived down to their reputation.

Thanksgiving is a Rorschach test for adults. If you see gratitude and togetherness, that’s you. If you see historical tragedy, that’s also you. Shopping frenzies? You. Combinations thereof? You. Bats? You.

Football? That’s TV.

US pro soccer is weird because the people in the US who care about soccer mostly watch non-US national teams. So if you’re prepared to argue with me about what ‘football’ is, you probably don’t watch MLS. MLS apparently isn’t that good. But as someone who doesn’t care about soccer, every time someone argues with me that soccer is football, I build up a little active resistance to caring in the long run. I do wonder if that’s just me building support for my preexisting positions, and it probably is. I don’t follow any sports, so the football/soccer naming issue isn’t likely the thing that keeps me out.

But there is a lot of football on TV and no soccer, and in my house, we watch Thanksgiving Day football!

The food was good, the family better, and I wish the best for you all. Take care.

Now: time for dragons.

Thanksgiving

I’m going to visit my parents for a few days and leaving this computer. Good luck, everyone. Posts to resume in a week.

Take care, people. Be grateful for what we have, and remember I’m rooting for you.

Stream of Consciousness

Is somewhat absurd, because stream of conscious writing shouldn’t be as coherent as it is.

Who said now is the time for all good I really dislike mushrooms.

That cannot be accurately punctuated without adding pauses and context where the train of thought had none.

Tragedy

I only got 7 pieces of chicken in my 8-piece box.

The world is a dark and cruel place.

Romance

The pattern of romance is:

1) These two characters should NEVER get together.

2) But, hypothetically, if they did they’d be perfect for each other.

3) Repeat 1 and 2 to hit wordcount.

4) They get together.

It’s surprisingly difficult to come up with reasons characters shouldn’t be together that aren’t impermeable but are valid. These reasons shouldn’t be possible to overcome with an adult conversation about needs and limits. However some change in circumstances, relatively unforeseen, should remove the reason keeping them apart.

The trick is that the easier it is the remove the reason keeping the characters apart, the lower intensity point 1 will be. That reduces the whole meaning and weight of the plot. But if point 1 really is never-ever-ever, than when the two characters come together, the story may not work outside of niche.

Some of this is set in terms of theme. So any remotely realistic story will have some guide-rails. Alice can’t murder Bob’s wife Charlie, and then have a healthy relationship with Bob. That’s a bridge too far. But a non-realistic story might be able to break that rule. Alice can murder Bob’s wife Charlie if Charlie is a vampire. Now we’re in vampire romance, so eh, murder away.

Also I, the writer, have to be able to think about the characters involved in a meaningful way. I’ve got guiderails and so forth. I also don’t really read vampire romance; my appreciation for vampires is mostly about the mythology and thematic elements. This exposes me to a lot of really, really trashy romance fiction, and I get it, I just don’t appreciate it. Some time ago I read Tanith Lee’s Night’s Master. That also fit into the category of ‘I got it, it just didn’t work for me.’ That’s why I described Night’s Master as better than I liked it.

If the characters solve ninety percent of their problems with gun-fights, the readers don’t have a moral high ground to argue trashy romance is bad. But there is a ‘this doesn’t work for me’ argument, which is both infuriating from inside looking out and yet valid.

The point is I’m not writing Alice murders Charlie, vampiress, and gets together with Bob unless… actually, I’m not sure how this would ever work. It’s probably possible, but I don’t see it happening.

Deep Learning

Deep Learning is a branch of Artificial Intelligence, which is a nonsensical name. A better name would be computers-doing-repetitive-but-useful-math, but that’s not as exciting and won’t get the attendees at a convention. Coincidentally, any time someone tells you the computers are going to take your job through AI, mentally replace AI with ‘addition’ and see if the FUD still works. If not, don’t worry about it.

Anyway, DL used to be called big data, and while they’re not exactly the same, they’re closely related. The computer does a lot of math very quickly, but it’s an awful lot of math so it takes a while. For the math to be useful, it has to do an awful lot. What the computer is doing the math on is the data, and that ‘awful lot’ referenced above means the computer needs a lot of data, ie big data.

With me?

So to train a DL network, I need a lot of data, and that means I spend hours a day waving targets over detectors. It is boring.

It’s boring but necessary in the way getting fit requires eight hours of sleep a night and eating a healthy diet. No one wants to do that.

Lifter: Coach Matt, I want to get jacked.

Coach Matt: Sounds good. Start with 8 hours of sleep a night and a healthy diet.

L: That’s boring. I see the huge guys in the gym lifting. How do I do that!?

CM: Patience, 8hrs of sleep a night, and a healthy diet.

L: LAME!

Lifter leaves.

L: Coach Bob, how do I get jacked?

CB: Benchpress. Chest day, benchpress. Shoulder day, benchpress. Leg day, benchpress. Ab day, benchpress. Back day? No one cares about your back. Anyone saying anything to your back should come around and say it to your face. And if they’re staring at your face, you should work on your front. Benchpress.

L: There is no way this can go wrong.

Meanwhile, like a loser, I’m trying sleep right, eat right, and stretching.

The lab equivalent of this is taking data, and it’s boring. Maybe I should wave a target over a detector for 8 hours and get some data!? Fun? No. Not fun.

The trick IT companies use is that they have a network of engineers doing various jobs, so one set of engineers creates the data collection system, another develops and implements the network-trainer algorithm (algorithm means ‘specific process done by computers’), a third examines the trained network and so forth. This cycle is sometimes called the product development triangle, and once you go around it five or six times, iterating and improving, it gets pretty good. Then the DL algo works well, some IT company feeds it huge data, and they try to take over the world.

Until their CEO runs off with all the money.

Come to think of it, maybe the ethical choice is just the benchpress. You don’t accomplish ****, but no one makes enough money to commit fraud.

My data is processing. I’m really bored.

Pictures

I like drawings with lots of people doing stuff. Take the header image. It’s a bunch of people doing stuff, and they’re all thrown together but still somewhat independent. I like to play the game: What’s that guy doing? Who is she looking at? What are those two saying?

Conglomerates

There’s nothing wrong with being a conglomerate. Investors don’t punish conglomerates.

Investors punish unfashionable conglomerates. They punish conglomerates that aren’t growing.

JnJ? PE(ttm) 17.3. Old and busted.

Facebook? PE(ttm) 23.4. New hotness.

Salesforce? PE(ttm) 122.8 (even newer and hotter)

MSFT? PE(ttm) 37.6 (the devil)